Two Comic Shops have effectively closed in the recent months with us reaping the benefits of their hardcore customers.
I say "effectively closed" as the one in Stratford no longer stocks new comics as he couldn't maintain a weekly Diamond order, so now he just sells the most disparate disorganised section of back issues I have ever seen. To give an example, the biggest comic section in his shop isn't labelled "Amazing Spider-man" or "Uncanny X-Men" but: "1st Issues - Half Price".
Another comic shop seems to have closed in Bedfordshire, I don't know the name, but we have picked up a very good mail order customer in his absence.
So am I happy that we are picking up new customers? Of course, but then you have to look at why.
The industry is shrinking, at least thats what the evidence says. Marvel are down 11% on the 2nd Quarter 2004, comic shops are still closing down and most of the industry (in fact, most retailers in the UK) are complaining that trade is down on this time last year. Yet my shop is holding steady, if not growing.
If our comic shop closed tomorrow, how many of the 150 people on our pull list, or the 350 speculative Tpb readers would continue reading comics?
I reckon as little as 20% of our readers would continue their habit, making the extra effort to travel, or organise mail order. The rest I think would make the occasional stop off in Ottakers for nostalgia, but otherwise drift away.
With every comic shop that closes in the UK, it means we have a bigger slice of the figurative Comic Industry Pie. It also means the comic Pie shrinks a little.